Editor Marissa Carruthers and photographer Anna Clare Spelman head on a cross-cultural culinary journey to Aeon Mall’s Khmer World Food Court.
Back home, I steer clear of shopping malls. Joining crowds being herded round identikit stores like zombies lost its appeal as soon as the landlady at my local believed I had hit 18 and so I no longer needed to use the malls as shelter from England’s bitter northern bite.
The thought of eating in them, apart from grabbing a McDonalds, was nothing short of preposterous.
However, these days visiting the mall is something of a novelty, what with Cambodia’s first international-standard shopping centre, Aeon Mall, only opening its doors last June.
As the automatic doors slide shut behind you, it’s like pressing mute on the madness outside, and walking through the sterile silence and well-lit, air-conditioned, orderly shops comes as a welcome break.
The same rule applies to food halls. Back home, meh. Here, for sure, I’ll give them a go. While Phnom Penh’s restaurants boast cuisine from all quarters of the planet, Aeon Mall is home to another first in the form of Khmer World Food Court. Spread across a spacious section of the third floor, the area has 12 separate booths offering signature dishes from across the globe.
Here, diners can tempt their taste buds with Italian delicacies from Terrazza, fine Vietnamese food at Pho and Roll, Cantonese cuisine from Yi Sang, Western favourites at Steak and Chips, Singaporean flavours from Chicken Rice and Indian at Mr Tandoor. Cravings for Cambodian food are also catered for with offerings from Slek Chouk, Num Banh Chouk, Uy Kuyteav and Fisherman Cuisine.
Blue Pumpkin is also on hand with a mouthwatering selection of cakes and ice creams, and soft drinks, beers, cocktails and more desserts are served from the aptly named Drink and Desserts kiosk.
This is the beauty of Khmer World Food Court – the ability to wander through a world of cuisines. To delve into a cross-cultural food journey that takes you across the Asian continent and into Europe.
This makes pushing the palate in different directions easy as we skirt from Terrazza’s booth, where we choose oil-drenched Italian panzanella salad ($4) that tastes of a warm summer’s day, before hitting Singapore’s station. Here, we select the country’s famous dish made of strips of gently spice-infused, deep-fried chicken with rice ($3.50), coupled with spicy and sweet sauces to compliment the dryness of the meat.
The steaming bowls of Cambodian lort char ($2.50) were calling and the traditional stir-fry dish of fresh lort noodles, broccoli, bean sprouts, chives, carrots and thin slices of tender beef complete with a fried egg on top, come packed full of flavour and piled high in a bowl.
After salivating over the selection of thick cakes, we decide to finish off with a slice of rich and moist chocolate fudge cake from Blue Pumpkin ($2.50).
We weren’t left disappointed. With more offerings to visit, I know where I’ll be going when I need a break from my mall-fix.